Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Eolian Harp
composed at clevedon, somersetshire
My pensive Sara! thy soft cheek reclined
Thus on mine arm, most soothing sweet it is
To sit beside our Cot, our Cot o’ergrown
With white-flowered Jasmin, and the broad-leaved Myrtle,
(Meet emblems they of Innocence and Love!)
And watch the clouds, that late were rich with light,
Slow saddening round, and mark the star of eve
Serenely brilliant (such would Wisdom be)
Shine opposite! How exquisite the scents
Snatched from yon bean-field! and the world so hushed!
The stilly murmur of the distant Sea
Tells us of silence.
And that simplest Lute,
Placed length-ways in the clasping casement, hark!
How by the desultory breeze caressed,
Like some coy maid half yielding to her lover,
It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs
Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now, its strings
Boldlier swept, the long sequacious notes
Over delicious surges sink and rise,
Such a soft floating witchery of sound
As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve
Voyage on gentle gales from Fairy-Land,
Where Melodies round honey-dropping flowers,
Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise,
Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untamed wing!
O! the one Life within us and abroad,
Which meets all motion and becomes its soul,
A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,
Rhythm in all thought, and joyance everywhere—
Methinks, it should have been impossible
Not to love all things in a world so filled;
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
Is Music slumbering on her instrument.
And thus, my Love! as on the midway slope
Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon,
Whilst through my half-closed eyelids I behold
The sunbeams dance, like diamonds, on the main,
And tranquil muse upon tranquility:
Full many a thought uncalled and undetained,
And many idle flitting phantasies,
Traverse my indolent and passive brain,
As wild and various as the random gales
That swell and flutter on this subject Lute!
And what if all of animated nature
Be but organic Harps diversely framed,
That tremble into thought, as o’er them sweeps
Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze,
At once the Soul of each, and God of all?
But thy more serious eye a mild reproof
Darts, O beloved Woman! nor such thoughts
Dim and unhallowed dost thou not reject,
And biddest me walk humbly with my God.
Meek Daughter in the family of Christ!
Well hast thou said and holily dispraised
These shapings of the unregenerate mind;
Bubbles that glitter as they rise and break
On vain Philosophy’s aye-babbling spring.
For never guiltless may I speak of him,
The Incomprehensible! save when with awe
I praise him, and with Faith that inly feels;
Who with his saving mercies healèd me,
A sinful and most miserable man,
Wildered and dark, and gave me to possess
Peace, and this Cot, and thee, heart-honored Maid!
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ‘mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
I have always enjoyed Coleridge’s poetry. I like the imagery that Coleridge used in these two poems. Coleridge paints a beautiful picture. There is a dark undertone to his poetry as well. From what I have read, all Romantics have that particular element.
Coleridge sees himself as a priest-like visionary with a connection to God. Coleridge feels it is his responsibility to share the vision of God to the people. Like Wordsworth, Coleridge’s vision of God comes from nature.
“And that simplest lute,….Is Music slumbering on her instrument.” (lines 13-33)
Coleridge sees the poet as the lute, and the breeze is his muse. She gives him songs of beauty and God. These songs were meant to uplift the soul of man. The poet must translate these songs for the rest of us to hear, so that we all see the light. If the poet does not translate the “Music” or the message, then the message will never be heard.
“And what if all of animated nature….At once the Soul of each, and God of All?” (lines 44-48)
If we all were poets, our words would mean little. The rational or “intellectual breeze,” would change the meaning of nature, the meaning of God.
“On vain Philosophy’s aye-babbling spring….Peace, and this cot, and the, heart-honored Maid!” (lines 57-64)
Coleridge tells us that while he is in nature, down by the spring, he is with God. Coleridge goes on to say that he was “a sinful and most miserable man,” but because he found peace in his God, he has peace and beauty in his life.
“A damsel with a dulcimer…That sunny dome! those caves of ice!” (lines 37-47)
The narrator saw a woman in a vision. She sang a song that filled him with peace and happiness. Her song told the narrator that he must help to rebuild a paradise. The paradise should be well balanced.
Unlike Blake, Coleridge sees himself as more of a translator or priest-like visionary than a god-like prophet. Blake says, “Hear the voice of the bard! Who Present, Past, & Future sees;…” In other words, Blake is saying, I am all knowing and all seeing. Coleridge is more subtle with his message. In “The Eolin Harp” he says, “And the simplest lute…” This can be translated as I am just a simple instrument which nature uses to spread her message.